The essay ‘In My Mother’s Garden’ — about losing a mother at the same time as becoming a mother — can be read at Literary Mama.
A piece about babies and other delicacies, ‘Good Enough to Eat’, was featured as part of the Mothers are Making Art project. You can read it here at the website of the Museum of Motherhood.
The short essay ‘My Parents Kept Almost Every Pair of Glasses They’d Ever Owned’ can be found over at The Pygmy Giant.
Two Very Short Stories…
Meeting the Lobster
Celia has never eaten a lobster. In fact, for thirty years she hasn’t eaten any flesh – no mammals, birds, fish or crustaceans.
Graham doesn’t see why she can’t start with a bacon sandwich. Why she must meet the thing before she eats it. But there’s no talking to her, she’s set on it. In fact, she knows exactly how it will be.
She will book a table for one at Salvatore’s. She will buy a long black dress and have her hair dyed red. While they wash her hair, she will tell the women her chemo starts next week. They will sigh and say you don’t expect it to happen to a vegetarian, although just look at Linda McCartney.
At the restaurant, amid the hush-fall of the black tablecloths and the clink of silverware, she will crouch and look into the tank. The water will be powdery green, the light moving slowly through it. She will watch the lobsters roiling and grinding like the rust-encrusted engine of some unfathomed shipwreck.
Among the tangle of segmented legs and incomprehensible whiskers, she will see it. And when its black, globed eye turns to her, she will meet its gaze and say yes, that is the one. The man will lift it from the water, its claws waving in slow salute, its legs irritably treading air.
Then she will return to her table, unfold the white linen napkin and smooth it over her lap. She will wait. She will be ready.
© Becky Tipper. First published in the Bridport Prize anthology, 2011
One Rat for Every Person
On the news that morning, I’d heard a report about how there were sixty million rats in Britain. That’s one for every person, they said. So I wasn’t surprised when I saw one on my way to work, scuttling between the bins behind Asda. And when he hopped on the bus and sat next to me – glancing around with his beady eyes, his whiskers trembling – I felt pleased that we’d found each other, out of the sixty million.
At work, he picked things up easily and got along with everyone. In fact, they called that evening to say that I needn’t come back since he was doing such a good job. (My boss, who I’d never liked anyway, added shirtily that I should seriously reflect on whether I considered myself personable enough to pursue a career in customer services.)
With nothing to do the next day, I went to the pub. Around eight, I was about to head back when my girlfriend phoned to say that I needn’t bother coming home. Since I was so late, they had ordered a pizza and were watching Sex and the City. The rat was better company, she said, and less domineering about the TV.
I spent the night behind Asda. It was more comfortable than you might think. I hadn’t eaten all day but there was plenty of food that was only slightly out-of-date, or the packaging a bit crumpled. I found some onion bhajis and an egg mayonnaise sandwich, which tasted just as good as usual, better even – there in the rich dark air of the city, under the strip of stars between the buildings. I slept well, soothed by the hum of the machines constantly cooling and heating and circulating like internal organs. In the morning, when I woke, I felt like a new person.
You adapt to life’s little changes, don’t you? And mostly, when you look back you can see they were for the best anyway. It’s been years now and I rarely think about my former life. Although, from time to time, I catch a scent in the air that fills me with longing, and I’ll go and visit my old flat. I’ll scrabble up the drainpipe and perch on the windowsill where I can see into the living room.
They’ll be sitting together on the couch as he nibbles crumbs of cheese from her hand, or she’ll be petting him absent-mindedly while they watch a film. I see her hand slide over his grey fur and rest on his long fleshy tail, and for a moment I’ll wish it was me.
I imagine myself there, nuzzling her palm, and I think how I wouldn’t even care what we watched on TV.
But then I hear the neighbours trundling their bins out, and the darkness feels sleek and cool on my back, and the millions of stars that pierce the sky are so fresh and alive, and I turn and slide back into the night.
© Becky Tipper. First published in the anthology Eating My Words, 2016